but Oscar said that all Art is quite useless

(cartoon seen at the yellowlight)

I’m going to speak to the point of this cartoon, and note that I’m speaking specifically at the concept of comic as product and leaving aside any fuzzy “cultural” arguments.

In a strictly utilitarian point of view, comics in general have not had much use. You can’t eat a comic (or at least you shouldn’t eat them), and comics serve no real purpose as any kind of tool. Without regard to content, comic books are useless masses of pressed pulp and globs of ink.
Comic books (or printed strips, etc…) as end product have no functional purpose, but they still have worth.

You see, comic books are physical objects. They cost money to produce; they take money to consume. In a physical economy, the simple cost of producing printed materials gives a kind of built-in worth to printed comics. Moreover, the fetishism of the object as “collectors item” lends a further degree of usefulness: the secondary financial benefit. Combine that with the fact that – if it came down to it – the ascetic could even burn the book for heat. This is value derived from the actual physical existence of an end product. Printed comics have intrinsic worth.

Webcomics, on the other hand, are a product firmly in the realm of the information economy. Comprised solely of digital information, webcomics have zero physical presence and are infinitely reproducible for no extra cost. Being so cheap to produce makes webcomics (as an end product) that much more difficult to monetize. Attempts to create a system of paid content (thus creating an implied “worth”) have been to a large extent unsuccessful. There are economic models emerging around the creation and display of webcomics but the money largely revolves around ancillary ventures. The webcomic-as-end-product exists solely as a beacon – a secondary use (at best) for the primary “product” of any webcomics venture. Economically speaking, the comic in and of itself is advertisement. Print advertisement has its collectors. But lacking a physical manifestation no one can collect any web advertisements. And no one collects webcomics.

So, again, there is no intrinsic worth in a webcomic. You can’t eat it (just try). It has no use, isolated from peripheral ventures. If you print it up to make collectible objects then it’s no longer a webcomic.

And that’s what this cartoon is saying. It’s not at all meant to be derogative, mind you. Rather it’s a celebration of the webcomic as ephemeral concern. Webcomics are not product, they are pure information. Unattached to physicality, webcomics are pure idea. Any worth to take out of them is derived solely by the end user (that’s you). And you get what you get purely from a cultural standpoint; from a utilitarian view webcomics are completely useless.



And that’s why I love them.


Do I Get a Prize For Finishing First?

I had to hurry up and get this thing finished for a presentation to incoming grad students at UIUC.  Hope you like the inked and colored version!

so much for that plan…

I thought maybe I’d move back into making hypercomics by starting with some quick, non story-based experiments. Nothing too involved. I got the artwork for my first shot done in two days – all pencil work. Off to a good start. But when I finally put it all in Infinite Canvas, the thing looked like crap. The panel transitions were just clumsy. It didn’t gel.

So here I am redrawing the whole thing, putting on finishes, editing my transitions. This is, like, two weeks later.

For a fairly simple animated transition experiment.

With any luck, I’ll have it ready this weekend. I’ve officially spent too much time on this already. We’ll see if it’s worth it.


Maybe I’m just warming up…

Wishlist for a new hypercomics program

So, a while back I talked to Markus Muller, the guy who made Infinite Canvas, about the possibility of an update to the program. He let me know that it just doesn’t have the userbase that warrants reworking on it, and that if he did have time to work on it, he’d probably redesign it from the ground up. So this got me thinking, if a new hypercomics program had some features that’d be a boon for guy like us, we could probably get a great deal more users. Infinite Canvas is a great program. It has an amazing and truly infinite canvas, a dead easy to use navigation builder, the ability to make hotspots to create nonlinear stories, control of rotation and speed of the trails, etc… But in the current web environment, it tends to pale.

So I’d like to gather a list of features that would be incredibly useful to a current hypercomics creator, with the hope of putting together an article that would inspire a developer with too much free time to see the value in making such a program. Here’s some features that’d be great to have in such a program:

  • Cross platform is a must, it seems. I think one of the biggest block in IC’s popularity was that it was Mac only.
  • Stand alone application. The biggest hurdle in The Tarquin Engine is you’re required to have and be famliar with Flash
  • Multiple export possibilities. It’d be nice to be able to export the entire piece as html (like IC works now) or as a Flash file to embed in your own webpage, or be able to publish it in it’s own “player” like a toutube video.
  • Blog embedding. Imagine making a hypercomic then getting people to post it in thier blogs, back to the youtube analogy. Viral hypercomics.
  • Sound and video embedding. Including sound atached to panels within a comics, or smal video file within the comic itself
  • more control over facets of the readability. I’d liek to be able to choose from a set of “loading” animations, be able to pick what kind of forward and back buttons look best
  • Text editor. I’d like to make images, then add text with the program itself, or use text boxes to make “hotspots”

These are off the top of my head, and I could think of more, but what do you guys think? Let’s hear what you’d like!

IC process video

Live Videos by Ustream

I recorded this for a forthcoming article i’d like to write on the need for a new program like IC. Just showing the programs capabilities with a new comic that i’m working on. (Most of the images are placeholders, currently, cause I haven’t drawn them yet.) However it looks like the compression quality is terrible so I think I’d better re-do it.

(Edit: Egads, that quality is crap. Maybe there’s some settings on Ustream I can mess with…)

Grant’s Hypersketch

I got inspired by 48 Vignettes and I made a little hypersketch that I eventually want to put into flash.

Sorry it takes so long to show up.

Sometimes the mainstream can get it right – part one

After a couple of obliquely negative posts which reference some deficiencies in what could be called the “popular face of hypercomics”*, it may be worth pointing out where companies with more resources and clout than us poor schmucks have tried actually gotten the thing right – at least a little (we’re admittedly in a gray area of “comics” so it’s all by degrees here anyway).

In terms of comics form, the Watchmen thing is an admitted disaster. It’s a shame that Warner decided to shred apart a highwatermark of mainstream comics. It’s not anything new, though. This kind of thing has been done to comics before, and done just as poorly (StarWars.com has taken down the travesty of form that was their “motion comic” for the Episode One adaptation but, Ye-Gad that was terrible). But let’s also look to Dark Horse’s repurposing of a Hellboy short for an example of a more understated technique.

We have some of the same features here: cut-up panels, clunky pseudoanimation, annoying score (well, if you can call that a score…), standard fare for this type of thing. But these elements are also used in subtler ways. Voiceovers are left out, preserving the reader’s own “inner voice.” Likewise, sound effects are left to be expressed by text. Something of a sequential panel layout is preserved – and it’s even purposed in a web-friendly format. The big difference, though, is the click-through navigation. The next panel or series of panels won’t appear until you click and tell them to appear. Unlike the Watchmen and Star Wars fiascos, this puppy is read. That’s a major distinction, in my book. That make this a hypercomic and not just bad animation.

There’s a different in intent here. The Watchmen thing is an act of pure hype. Fans have already decided whether or not they’ll watch the movie. What Mignola and Dark Horse did with Hellboy: The Varcolac is more akin to the type of web experiments that we want to attempt, I think.

It’s not a perfect, sure. I’ve got my nitpicks. Sometimes experiments fail.

But it’s nice that someone out there in the mainstream at least made an attempt.

*(my inference only here, Neal)